Letter to the Editor: The PSAC, NCAA, and Pennsylvania
As a myriad of college campuses rumble to a start with the beginning of another academic year, the 18 member institutions of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference begin their 63rd year of officially organized competition.
Unique as the largest conference in the NCAA, the PSAC remains one of the few intercollegiate leagues with all of its members located within the boundaries of one state. Coupled with the large number of institutions in the Commonwealth that are not members of the PSAC, intercollegiate athletics….their value and contribution…are unmistakable in Pennsylvania.
Almost every one of the over 6,000 student-athletes in the PSAC have a financial self-investment in their education. The PSAC student-athlete often combines athletics aid, academic aid and parental financial support as a self-investment in educational success and graduation. In 2012-13, PSAC institutions distributed over $23 million dollars in athletic scholarship aid among the student-athletes in the league. On average, that’s about $3,500 per student-athlete, while true cost of annual attendance exceeds $20,000 annually. One would be hard pressed to find 100 student-athletes in the PSAC who receive a full athletic scholarship. The vast majority of PSAC student-athletes receive less than $2,000 per year to support their education through athletic scholarships.
Due in part to the partial athletics financial aid model used in Division II, PSAC student-athletes have federal graduation rates of 63%, the second highest among Division II conferences and 7% higher than the general student body. The PSAC’s Academic Success Rate (ASR) is 78% when all student-athletes are considered, fourth highest in Division II. Those numbers are remarkable when compared against leagues across the country whose member institutions are predominately state owned.
The PSAC intentionally structures competition to reduce academic stress on the student-athlete. Practice and competition are scheduled to allow student-athletes the opportunity to graduate in four years. Long distance travel is focused to weekends. Responsibility and self-reliance are fostered as student-athletes may seek academic assistance and tutoring in the same manner as the general student-body. Reflective of that commitment is that over 36% of PSAC student-athletes maintained cumulative grade point averages of 3.25 after the last academic year.
In addition to academic success, the PSAC and its student-athletes contribute thousands of hours of volunteer service in the communities where they are located. In addition to the service hours, PSAC student-athletes raised over $42,000 for Make-A-Wish, the most by any Division II conference. Division II student-athletes are the largest contributors to Make-A-Wish.
In Pennsylvania, there are 22 Division II institutions (the most in any state), 15 NCAA Division I institutions, and 62 Division III institutions. That level of NCAA membership by state ranks third in the United States. Division II and III institutions and conferences thrive on NCAA grants, distributions and championship expenses supporting perhaps 25,000 or so student-athletes alone within the borders of the Commonwealth.
While it may be fashionable at times to jab at the NCAA for supposed missteps, it is important to note that nearly every student-athlete, institution and conference in Pennsylvania has received great opportunities and remarkable experiences due in large part to the collective support of the NCAA.
Through dozens of grant and educational programs, the NCAA provides the PSAC, its member institutions, administrators, coaches and student-athletes hundreds of thousands of dollars in support. The annual PSAC budget alone is nearly 50% funded by NCAA grants. Championship expenses, student-athlete academic support and professional development opportunities and subsidies flow from the Association directly to and through the conference to member institutions. Additionally, NCAA Championship expenses are funded almost entirely by the Association when teams or individuals participate in the postseason. This past year over 120 PSAC teams participated in NCAA post-season competition, including nearly 1,500 student-athletes.
It is very important to remember that two-thirds of the NCAA membership lies among the nearly 800 or so Division II and Division III programs across the country. The Division II and Division III institutions and conferences would find it difficult to sustain operations as currently available if it were not for the considerable resources provided by revenue generated from the media rights agreement the NCAA has to broadcast the Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament.
Unfortunately, a broad brush stroke has been painted across the bow of intercollegiate athletics in recent months. The 18 member institutions in the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference, as proud members of the NCAA Division II, while not always perfect, have nonetheless tried to consistently emphasize the positive aspects and behaviors expected in intercollegiate athletics. We support the NCAA and its leadership in making sense of a litigious quagmire that has burdened the Association and cast a dark cloud over those of us involved, directly or indirectly, in intercollegiate athletics.
The universities that compete in the PSAC include, Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Gannon, IUP, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Mercyhurst, Millersville, Pitt-Johnstown, Seton Hill, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
Commissioner, Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference
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